Depths of Winter Gardening

There’s no denying the harshness of this winter ‘13-’14. Here in Western NY, the snow is deep, but not so deep. The sun is shining, the temps are in the 20’s (okay, down to single digits at night) and traffic is moving briskly. You might guess, as my friend from Atlanta says, we are used to this harshness. What can we gardeners do to survive these cold winter months?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeed catalogs. Get on their mailing lists and learn, dream, order. Look up a plant online and you’ll probably be inundated with choices. Don’t forget to check out the gardening tools and the latest in deer repellents.

These catalogs contain valuable information. Hardiness zones, height, width of the plant, etc. Before you fall in love with a plant, check if it will survive in your agricultural zone. Mine is a 4/5. Anything higher and the health of the plant is in jeopardy.

Annuals – favorites for easy color without fuss, but keep the old blossoms trimmed (called ‘deadheading’) for continual blooms.

Pansies—Darlings of spring, they may fade in the heat but you can replace them with…

Zinnias—‘Profusion,’ any color. 12-15 inches high and about the same wide, they are spectacular bloomers.

Marigolds—French for quick, petite blooms and the African ones for tall, late. Pot up the large ones for fall patio color.

Sunflowers are a pure joy. Include a few here and there.

Petunias—it might be easier to buy plants, but they are not difficult to grow from seed.

Many, many more choices are available. Dream, plan! Spring will be here before you know it.

The Wonderful Wicked Duke

Blurb:

After a cruel family betrayal, Caroline Engelson vows the wicked duke will never regain her love unless he first earns her respect, no matter how fervently she longs for his kisses.

A serious accident delivers the wicked duke into Caro’s care. He is her long time love but she is shocked and hurt awonderfulwickedduke-200when he refers to her teen years as the ‘brat with tangled curls.’ Caro is all grown up now when the wicked duke tries to take advantage of her emotions, even as he turns the orderly household into total chaos with his ducal roars. To his astonishment, his best friend’s sister is made of sterner stuff. The situation changes when Caro learns of a shocking family secret. Will she tame the wicked duke and allow them to love happily ever after or will the betrayal damage her trust forever?

Excerpt:
“Come here and hold my hand, Brat.” She placed her hand into his big one which he held onto firmly then took both their hands and rested them on his chest. A grimace of pain flickered across his face, but was quickly gone.

“Do you hurt, Robert? I can get you more laudanum.” She tried to pull away to reach the bottle, but he tightened his hold on her hand.

“Yes, it hurts like the devil, but no, I do not want to be drugged again. Sit down beside me and tell me what you have been doing all these years. Did you miss me?”

“You know I did. Why did you not come visit me? A sad friend you turned out to be for all you are a duke.”  She listened but heard nothing from the sleeping household. Her aunt would not be best pleased to find her alone in a room with a man in his bedclothes, never mind he was a duke and a neighbor.

“I was waiting for you to grow up. When I left you were but a young chit, a bratty girl with dirty fingernails and tangled curls.” He smiled at her as he described the child she had been. She felt a pain shoot through her soul. He only thought of her as a bratty child while she had loved him with all her being. Still loved. Still worshiped and longed for his touch. Inadvertently she squeezed his hand in her distress.

His eyes opened wide as his face turned serious. “Did I offend you, Sweetheart? Never mind, you know I am a wicked duke. Yes, that is my nickname. ‘The Wicked Duke.’ Come closer, Caro.” He tugged her down on his chest. She rested her head and could hear the steady beat of his heart. How wonderful it felt to be this close to the one she loved. She could feel his arm tighten around her as his head rested against her hair.

“You are all grown up now, are you not, Caro? Sweet Caro?” He tilted her face up to him and placed a soft kiss on her lips. Which one of them groaned was not clear to her. Perhaps both.

Caroline sat up slowly. “You know I love you, Robert. You have always known it. But as deep as my love is for you…” She paused and took a deep breath while she withdrew her hand from his. “I will not allow you to ruin me.” With that she stood and rapidly left the room. Tears ran unheeded down her cheeks and she threw herself into her bed. Deep sobs wracked her body. She cried for her love lost now to her forever. It was crystal clear what he felt for her and it was unacceptable. Perhaps once she would have agreed to anything he asked. He was her whole life and she could not imagine another, but her thinking was that of an adult, no longer a child. Her self respect came before her emotions and she would not easily give it up.

Gardening – Fall Cleanup

We’ve been too busy lately to chat about gardening and now the frost is thick on the ground. We still have a few chores to finish.

1.    A big job for our little nursery which grows many cut flowers is digging the less than hardy bulbs and tubers. Dahlias are gorgeous, but must be lifted each year and stored out of the cold. Daffodils stay in the ground as perennials. Paper White narcissi are not hardy in most zones above seven. Tulips are often dug and stored to keep them from reverting to their original colors. They will return but often are smaller and less colorful. Deer love to nibble tulips and think they are spring salad.

Our Dahlia House

Our Dahlia House

2.    You’ve raked leaves into your perennial beds to offer them extra protection. You’ve packed away the rest. Here in Western NY, living on acreage, we use the lawn mower to mulch the leaves and almost never rake. When chopped, the leaves do not cling together creating an optimum environment for leave mold and unsightly grass mold, plus the nutrients are returned to the soil. Not to mention it’s much easier than raking. Don’t let them pile up too big before you cut or the mower will just push them forward.

3.    Be aware if you prune spring blooming shrubs now, you are cutting off many of the blossoms for the next season. Trim these shrubs only after they bloom next spring.

4.    Spring bulb planting is still possible as long as you can dig the ground. You know the usual daffodil, tulip, narcissi, but are you acquainted with the smaller bulbs and corms which are a delight and surprise for eyes tired from only white snow? Here are a few: Anemones (blanda types), short, daisy-like in pink, white and blue, bloom almost before Crocus so plant close to the sidewalk so you can spot them. Very charming.  Galanthus, better known as ‘snowdrops.’ Deer do not eat. Scilla siberica are lovely blue and bloom just before Muscari (grape hyacinths). I like to intermingle them so as one fades the other takes over. There are others, but these will delight you with their faithfulness year after year.  Use a commercial bulb fertilizer.

Regency Intro

My latest Regency romance novel, The Duke and Miss Amabel Hawkins, has just been released by Musa Publishing!

There’s a particular thrill that happens to the author when a completed novel is released to the reading public. From the first glimmer of an idea to the sweat and tears of plotting, to the final edits, a writer thinks and hopes his/her ideas will be received favorably by the readers. My story is not unusual. Of course, I enjoyed the plotting. I love anything Regency. The genre, covering a particular time in English history (1811-1820), is ripe for romance. It’s a time of manners, of grace, and of witty conversation. Handsome men with bulging thigh muscles on awesome steeds and lovely ladies in breathtaking gowns who use their fans to flirt inhabit the story lines of Regency Romances.

An introduction to The Duke and Miss Amabel Hawkins

DukeAndMissAnabelAfter a year’s absence, a ruggedly handsome duke comes home from chasing his country’s spies to find a lovely but meddlesome female firmly in charge of his household. Worse, she has no idea why he is so upset. His estate matters were in dreadful array. He needn’t thank her, but why is he yelling so loudly? And the race is on. Can an arrogant duke manage to see through the unusual upbringing of this interesting female to find the love that she offers? There will surely be a few fireworks before all these conflicts are resolved and the two find their happily ever after.

Excerpt: Fatigue and the effects of the brandy on top of the ale now gave his gait a distinct wobble. He chuckled, amused at his condition.

As he reached for the portrait of great Uncle Barney, he lurched into the back of the red leather sofa in front of the cosy fire. “Deuce take it,” he exclaimed when a rounded arm rolled into view. He spotted the gentle curve of a hip and walked around to the front, where he spied a tumbled haze of dark curls hiding a face. It is indeed a female—a sleeping female.

Who was she? The gown was too rich for his household staff. Curious, he knelt beside the sofa.

“Only one way to find out,” he whispered and moved one dark curl. He sat back, satisfied when a handsome face swam into view. She sighed and rolled over, revealing a generous figure and a pair of rosy lips. She might be Sleeping Beauty—but not one of my relatives. He leaned over and kissed those tempting lips.

As he lingered there, she sighed and came partially awake. He could not resist. He deepened the kiss and sounds of satisfaction like yum and umm came from those delicious lips. Her hand stroked his face, then reached around his head to pull him closer. Delighted with this turn of events, the Duke of Westerton complied enthusiastically and extended an arm around a slender waist. How much of the ale and brandy had he imbibed? Dizziness overcame his senses as he slid down on the floor and knew no more.

Buy Links: Amazon and Musa Publishing

Gardening Q & A – Tomatoes

Q: Hi Emma,
My tomatoes produced very poorly this season. Out of four plants we didn’t get more than thirty fruit. I live in Northwest Indiana. Our summer was kind of dry, but I watered at least twice a week. The soil is poor so I mix bagged manure in with potting soil at a ration of 1:4. Any clues what’s wrong? The onions were bad too as they didn’t grow beyond walnut size.

A: Thanks for the question, Sloane. Lots of home gardeners are disappointed about their tomato crops the last couple of years. Blight is the usual culprit, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what happened to you. Your clue when you are struck by the evil blight is one day your tomato plant is healthy, the next it is dying, and the poor plant is totally gone by the end of the week. Water or fertilizers do not help. There are several kinds of blight and I do not profess to be an expert on the subject. (Early, middle and late blight.)

For home gardeners there’s not much you can do except to avoid planting in the same spot the next year and carefully clean up and destroy any remaining infected debris. I always think it best to leave the serious pesticides to the commercial growers who are licensed and provide our nation’s food crops.

Here I plan to divulge a secret, hopefully not so secret now, supplier who has studied these problems. We have had the very best luck with their products. You will readily notice they concern themselves with the environment and most products are organic. Perfect for the home gardener! The website is http://www.GardensAlive.com Even if you don’t order from their catalog, it’s a fun adventure to read about all the products they offer. They have two fertilizers I regularly afford: “Tomatoes Alive!” and “Flowers Alive for Perennials!” (and Annuals). I see on page 19, they advertise “Soap-Shield Flowable Liquid Copper Fungicide” which controls a wide range of diseases including tough fungal diseases, I haven’t used it but I do trust their products. I see on page 38 there is “Root Crops Alive! Fertilizer.” Perhaps that will boost your onion crop. I am not paid to advertise Gardens Alive. They don’t know that I’m alive, but I do recommend their products to all my customers at the shop and I’ve learned so much just reading their catalogs. Have fun and happy next season gardening.

Thursday Threads

Highland Homecoming, Book 3 in the Fraser Brothers Trilogy

Written by B.J. Scott

bjscott

Historical Romance set in northern Scotland, 1308.
Heat Scale :  Sizzling (While not considered Erotica, it does contain scenes with some descriptive sexual content.)

When Highland patriot, Alasdair Fraser, offers aid to an unconscious lass he finds on the beach, will he drop the shield that guards his heart or will the secrets she fails to reveal and his own stubbornness drive an impenetrable wedge between them?

Excerpt:

Northern Coast of Scotland. Summer 1308

Hooves pounded against rocks, surf, and sand as Alasdair Fraser pushed his mount beyond reasonable limits. Few things rivaled the thrill and exhilarating rush of mastering the powerful destrier between his thighs, controlling the magnificent beast with reins and will. The wind whipped through unbound hair and the tangy scent of the salty sea air filled Alasdair’s nostrils.

He’d ridden hard all afternoon, hoping to reach the stronghold of his friend, Jayden Sinclair. But the sun had slipped below the horizon, the twilight sky ablaze with orange, red, and purple hues. Darkness would soon be upon him and he’d be forced to make camp for the night. He licked his parched lips and his stomach rumbled. Many hours had passed since he’d last eaten, but a hot meal and a tankard of ale would have to wait. Water, oatcakes, and a bit of dried venison would suffice until he reached his destination.

He dug in his heels, and the steed surged forward. The more distance they covered before nightfall, the shorter the journey would be on the morrow. But as they rounded a bend in the shoreline, Odin faltered, reared up on his hind legs, then began to dance nervously from side-to-side. The battle-hardened warhorse didn’t spook easily so Alasdair took heed of the animal’s uneasiness.

With one hand resting on the hilt of his sword, the other fisting the reins, he carefully surveyed the immediate area. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, yet the niggling of trepidation gnawing at his gut led him to believe there was something amiss. He nudged the horse’s flank and the pair advanced with caution.

They’d only traveled a short distance up the beach when the sight of something a few yards ahead at the water’s edge brought them to an abrupt halt. With his heart hammering in his chest, Alasdair cupped his hand over his brow and narrowed his eyes, trying to get a better look. The image came into focus and he could make out the unmistakable outline of a person sprawled out on the shore.

“What is it, Odin? Or, should I say, who is it?”

While this could be someone in need, it might also be a trap, an enemy or bandit lying in wait. Without hesitation, Alasdair slid from the saddle, pulled a claymore from the baldric slung on his back, and raced down the beach on foot. Stopping a few feet away, he sucked in a sharp breath.

“Mo chreach!”
He sheathed his weapon and took a step closer. A young woman, wearing nothing more than a thin nightrail, lay motionless in the sand, the waves of the incoming tide lapping at her bare feet.

Buy links
Highland Homecoming ( book 3 of Fraser Brother Trilogy)

Highland Quest (book 2 of Fraser Brother Trilogy)

Highland Legacy: (book 1 of Fraser Brother Trilogy)

email: bjscott@authorbjscott.com
web: www.authorbjscott.com
blog:  http://authorbjscott.wordpress.com 
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-BJ-Scott/308663055834706

Gardening Q & A

liliesQuestion: How can I tell which plants will survive in my agricultural zone?

Answer: Most plant catalogs will give the coldness/heat zone in the cultural information adjacent to the photograph of the plant abbreviated with a Z.

When you buy a perennial (a plant that survives winter and stays with you for years), be certain it matches your hardiness zone. Here in Western NY, my zone is 4-5 which limits some plants I would dearly love to grow. Annuals grow from seed and only last for one season. Even there, cold/hot summers are a consideration. Zinnias, for instance, love hot dry summers but are prone to disease in very persistently wet days. Impatiens will curl up their toes and fade away if the nights dip below 40’s. The same goes for the popular herb basil.

In lieu of catalog information, check with your local nurseryman. They know the area best and can give invaluable information. Best to be forewarned to save you disappointment and money.

Welcome guest blogger, Patricia Bond

I’d like to welcome my very first guest blogger, Patricia Bond! Patricia is a romance author who sets her stories against rich, historical backdrops. With vivid, strong heroines, and heroes you can fall in love with, her stories of love transcend time and place. Passion and history combine with just enough mystery and suspense to bring you a heart-thrilling read and a satisfying happily-ever-after ending.

Today, Patricia interviews Fenton Pierce-Smythe, hero of her newly released debut novel, By Love’s Honor Bound.

ByLovesHonorBound_250kb

Come meet the hero with the funny name…

The hero in “By Love’s Honor Bound” is, of course, the requisite tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome. He has wavy dark hair that simply begs for fingers to run through it, and deep, deep blue eyes. No namby-pamby cornflower blue for this man. No, his are dark sapphire and can glitter in passion just like the jewel.

He also has an. . . ummm. . . unusual name.

Patricia Bond: Mr. Pierce-Smythe, your first name, Fenton, is very different. How did you come to be named that?

Fenton Pierce-Smythe: Please, Ms. Bond, call me Fenton. It’s all right.  My name – well, you may not like this answer, but it came from a novel.

PB: A novel?

FP-S: Yes. My parents were traveling in England and my mother purchased something they called a “penny dreadful.”

PB: What’s that?

FP-S:  Apparently a poorly done, lurid novel.

PB: Sold for a penny?

FP-S: (smiling) Something like that. The story goes I was conceived on that trip and my mother took it as a sign.

PB: Fenton is such an unusual name. Did it cause you trouble growing up?

FP-S:  (holding up left hand) See this finger? (pointing to the little finger with a decided bend at the tip) It used to be straight until it met Timmy Parsons’ nose when we were ten.

PB:  Does your name still cause you problems?

FP-S: No. I haven’t seen Timmy Parsons in years.  I understand he’s quite successful now, and somewhat plump.  (smiles) I think I could still take him.

PB:  Yes. You are put together rather well.

FP-S:  (blushing)  Umm. . . Thank you

PB:  Would you come back to visit us again?

FP-S:  Anytime.  (slow, lazy smile) Anytime at all.

PB:  (fanning self)  Oh. . . my.

Book Excerpt from By Love’s Honor Bound:

Someone is killing conductors on the Underground Railroad. With a cellar full of runaway slaves, Olivia June Mathieson must decide whether the handsome Fenton Pierce-Smythe is savior or traitor.

Both Fenton Pierce-Smythe’s fiancée and grandfather were killed when runaway slaves spooked their horses. Determined no one else will face that pain, Fenton hunts runaways to return them safely to their owners. But can he remain unmoved by their plight and unaffected by the beautiful woman who risks her life to lead them to freedom?

Purchase By Love’s Honor Bound at Amazon.

Read some 5-star reviews:
I love history and stories with a setting I can see clearly in my mind. A little mystery makes it even better. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. (Georgia Grosstephan)

 By Love’s Honor Bound is a beautifully told story, full of history and romance. Bond takes the reader back to the time of the underground railroad and immediately pulls you into the lives of the characters, especially the main characters, Olivia June Mathieson and Fenton Pierce Smythe. Great job by debut author Bond. (Helen R. Jones)

About Patricia Bond:

Ms. Bond lives in the best place on earth – Western New York – not quite close enough to see the waterfront, but close enough that you’ll often find her there, camera and notebook in hand, patient, hero-inspiring husband nearby. “Only” four children, not a dozen, but count in their spouses and she’s up to eight now – and a grandchild

She may still try her hand at mysteries. She hasn’t seen a three-sided phone booth in years.

https://www.facebook.com/patricia.bond.author
http://www.patricia-bond.com/

Q and A with Miss Amabel Hawkins

“Welcome to Emma Lane’s website, Miss Amabel Hawkins. Would you care for a cup of tea?”

“Thank you. I love the garden here. I assume the herb garden is in the back by the kitchen? I do so love working with herbs.” She brushed wisps of hair from her face.

Question: “You are always busy working on something. I heard you are all but managing the Westerton estate. How did Lord Westerton feel about that?”

Answer: “Oh, you heard about that set-to, did you? It was but a trifle. Yes, I thought the man was insane. I shouldn’t have boxed his ears. He thought I was a spy. (laughs) Did you ever hear such silliness?”

Q: “How did it come about that you were in charge of his affairs? Such a strImageange business for a woman, is it not?”

A: “It’s a long story. I know I lack social manners, but my godmother is trying to help me. I had a hard time learning the waltz until Lord…Westerton came in. (blushes) You know of course how desperately I need a husband. This distant cousin is threatening to take the guardianship of my brother, Darien, away. I suspect he only wants his hateful hands on Darien’s money.

Q: “How are you two getting along now? Is your host still uncomfortable having you visit? I heard he called you a meddling, managing female. Is that true?”

A: “We are reconciled. I try to stay out of his business. I had the people of Westerton trained by the time he returned home anyway. They are more than competent now.” She laughed and turned her head away.

Q: “How do you feel about Lord Westerton? Tell us the truth now. Wasn’t there a kiss between the two of you?”

A: “He is very handsome, is he not? But I must not bother him with my problems. Was that kiss a reality? I thought it was just a dream.” She gazed off in the distance.

Q: “Thanks you for visiting with us. Will you come back to see us again some day?”

A: “Oh for certain. My story will be here for all to read in the fall. Check for the release date in October. You will be surprised at the way things turned out for us.” She grinned and waved goodbye.

Courage for High Bush Cranberry and Authors

One of my favorite North American shrubs, which grows no more than twelve feet high, is a viburnum trilobum, common name “High Bush Cranberry”. The attractive red berries make great jams and jellies, presumably used similar to our cranberry sauce. Left on the shrubs, the birds feed on them all winter.

I voted the viburnum as number one in usefulness: lovely white flowers in the spring, sparkling red berries late summer and glorious red foliage in the fall. I happily encouraged every seedling that volunteered on my property.

That was before I heard about the dreaded viburnum leaf beetle and its larva. One summer it seemed every shrub was infested by this dreadful beetle. In two years every single bush was destroyed. Other members of the viburnum family also bit the dust, but I mourned only the high bush. This story has a happy ending. Last year I discovered two bushes with red berries. This year they are thriving. Why they were missed I have no idea but I admire the courage for their come back from severe adversity.

In my last post, I mentioned how sensitive, creative writers must grow a skin as tough as an alligator’s. When they get a submission rejection by a publisher or agent, they find the courage to pick their wounded egos up and start again. One of the best ways to do this is to remember everyone is not going to like, approve or accept your offerings. The task is to find those who do. Reading submission requirements is probably the best way to find a fit for your work. Key word here is “fit”. A rejection is not necessarily a commentary on your work. It may be just a poor fit for that month, year and day. Or it may be that your work stinks. 🙂  In either case, it’s back to the computer to rework your story, just in case. It takes courage, stamina, and a propped up ego, but success will be well worth it in the end.